Defeating the Enemy s Will: The Psychological Foundations of Maneuver Warfare

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1 Grossman/1 Defeating the Enemy s Will: The Psychological Foundations of Maneuver Warfare DAVID A. GROSSMAN The will to fight is at the nub of all defeat mechanisms One should always look for a way to break the enemy s will and capacity to resist. Brig. Gen. Huba Wass de Czege Defeating the enemy s will. That is the essence of maneuver warfare, that you defeat the enemy s will to fight rather than his ability to fight. But how do you defeat a man s mind? We can measure and precisely quantify the mechanics of defeating the enemy s ability to fight, and it is this tangible, mathematical quality that makes attacking the enemy s physical ability to fight so much more attractive than attacking the enemy s psychological will to fight. At some level none of us can truly be comfortable when we dwell on the fact that our destiny as soldiers and military leaders ultimately depends on something as nebulous and unquantifiable as an enemy s will, and we are tempted to ignore such aspects of warfare. But somewhere in the back of our minds, a still, small voice reminds us that ultimately the paths of victory run not through machinery and material, but through the hearts and minds of human beings. So what is the foundation of the will to fight and kill in combat and what are the vulnerable points in this foundation? In short: what are the psychological underpinnings of maneuver warfare? To answer these questions, students of maneuver warfare must truly understand, as we have never understood before, the psychological responses of that hungry, frightened, cold individual soldier in combat. Of the maimed, of the halt and the blind in the rain and the cold, of these must our story be told. 1 S.L.A. Marshall, John Keegan, Richard Holmes, and Ardant du Picq are but a few of the perceptive individuals who have made significant contributions to the enormous task of piecing together a host of individual observations into a coherent fabric, but the work of most observers and researchers has the flavor of the reports made by the proverbial blind men groping at the elephant. Past observers have identified many important and valid aspects of the beast, but a consistent shortcoming seems to have been their inability to integrate their own observations with those of others. Thus, while one grasps a leg and declares the creature to be a tree, another finds a flank and calls the beast a wall, and still another proclaims the trunk to be a snake. In a way, all are correct, but the magnitude of the beast we call war is even greater than the sum of its parts. The analogy of blind men is really quite appropriate, for we are all truly blinded when we attempt to look too closely into the searing flames of pain and denial that surround combat. Many observers have noted the millennia-old institution of repression and denial which makes understanding the psychological responses to combat so difficult. There is, wrote the psychologist-philosopher Peter Marin, a massive unconscious cover-up in which both those who fought and those who did not hide from themselves the true nature of the experience. 2 And, based on his own self-observation, the philosopher-soldier Glenn Gray concluded that: few of us can hold on to our real selves long enough to discover the real truths about ourselves and this whirling earth to which we cling. This is especially true of men in war. The great god Mars tries to blind us when we enter his realm, and when we leave he gives us a generous cup of the waters of Lethe to drink. 3

2 Grossman/2 Thus, in its horrified and revolted response to the enormity of war, the human consciousness has traditionally scattered and buried the pieces of the beast that we seek. Like archaeologists, we must exhume each piece from whence it has been entombed in layers of denial. Like paleontologists, we must piece together each fragment brought out into the bright light of understanding and comprehension, and carefully fit it with all the others so as to understand fully the magnitude of the beast. The task is daunting. We human beings are extraordinarily complex creatures, and when considered in groups, our potential complexity grows exponentially. And the numbers of the pieces of our collective psyche that lie buried in the minds of living veterans in the fields of military science, history, psychology, sociology, and philosophy are legion. One veteran I interviewed referred to such scientific study of men in combat as A world of virgins studying sex, with nothing to go on but porno films. British Gen. Shelford Bidwell comes to the same general conclusion when he states that the union soldier and scientist must always lay on dangerous ground. 4 The objective of this study is to form such a union, to tread that dangerous ground and apply the skills of a soldier, a historian, and a psychologist in order to form a first, tentative framework of understanding that others may build upon. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PRICE OF WAR Nations customarily measure the costs of war in dollars, lost production, or the number of soldiers killed or wounded. Rarely do military establishments attempt to measure the costs of war in terms of individual suffering. Psychiatric breakdown remains one of the most costly items of war when expressed in human terms. Richard Gabriel No More Heroes 5 Defeating the enemy s will is not too far removed from the process of inflicting psychiatric casualties on the enemy s soldiers. In fact it would come very close to the mark to say that maneuver warfare (as opposed to attrition warfare) seeks to inflict psychic as well as physical damage upon the enemy, and a brief examination of the psychological price of modern war would be an appropriate place to begin our study of the psychological underpinnings of maneuver warfare. In his book, No More Heroes, Richard Gabriel outlines the staggering psychic costs of war. In every war in which American soldiers have fought in this century, the chances of becoming a psychiatric casualty... were greater than the chances of being killed by enemy fire. 6 In World War II, America s armed forces lost 504,000 men from the fighting effort because of psychiatric collapse enough to man fifty divisions! We suffered this loss despite efforts to weed out those mentally and emotionally unfit for combat by classifying 970,000 men as unfit for military service due to psychiatric reasons. 7 At one point in World War II, psychiatric casualties were being discharged from the U.S. Army faster than new recruits were being drafted in. 8 Swank and Marchand s World War II study determined that after 60 days of continuous combat, 98 percent of all surviving soldiers will have become psychiatric casualties of one kind or another. 9 (Swank and Marchand also found that the 2 percent who are able to endure sustained

3 Grossman/3 combat had as their most common trait a predisposition toward aggressive psychopathic personalities. The importance of this statistic will be addressed later.) In order to fully understand what it is that unravels the will of the individual fighting soldier and turns him into a psychiatric casualty, we need to identify all of the major factors that interact to cause this tremendous psychic burden. The Soldier s Dilemma: Dogged by Shadows on Either Hand The man who ranges in No Man s Land Is dogged by the shadows on either hand No Man s Land 10 James H. Knight-Adkin Observers who have reported on the nature of the psychological trauma associated with combat keep coming up with different answers. Each of these observers seems to have come up with a piece of the truth, but the full magnitude of the physiological and psychological impact of war is greater than the sum of its parts, and the soldier is dogged by shadows at every turn. Some of the diverse factors that need to be incorporated into a complete understanding of the combat soldier s circumstance are outlined below, and all of these factors add relentlessly to be the burden of that horrible catch-22 at the core of combat, that heart of darkness at the center of all combat processes: to kill or not to kill and the price thereof.? The impact of physiological arousal and fear. Appel and Beebe 11 are but a few of many, many observers in the field of the behavioral sciences who hold that fear of death and injury is the primary cause of psychiatric casualties. Richard Gabriel is among many who make a powerful argument for the impact of physical exhaustion caused by extended periods during which the sympathetic nervous system is activated in a continuous fight or flight response.? The weight of exhaustion. Among actual veterans, many accounts seem to focus on the fatigue and exhaustion they experienced in combat. The psychologist Bartlett states definitively that there is perhaps no general condition which is more likely to produce a large crop of nervous and mental disorders than a state of prolonged and great fatigue. 12 The British General Bernard Fergusson stated that lack of food constitutes the single biggest assault upon morale. 13 And Guy Sager, a German veteran of the eastern front in World War II, is one of the many veterans who learned that cold was the soldier s first enemy. We urinated into our hands to warm them, and, hopefully, to cauterize the gaping cuts in our fingers each movement of my fingers opened and closed deep crevices, which oozed blood. 14? The stress of uncertainty. The initial results of extensive research on the 1991 Gulf War indicates that one of the major stressors on individual combatants was the tremendous uncertainty of war. 15 This constant state of uncertainty, which is a major part of what Clausewitz referred to as the friction of war, destroys the soldier s sense of control over his life and environment, and eats away at his limited stock of fortitude.? The burden of guilt and horror. Richard Holmes, on the other hand, spends a chapter of his superb book, Acts of War, convincing us of the horror of battle, and the impact of the guilt associated with it: Seeing friends killed, or, almost worse, being unable to help them. And Peter Marin accuses the field of psychology of being ill prepared to address the guilt caused by

4 Grossman/4 war and the attendant moral issues. He flatly states that, Nowhere in the [psychiatric and psychological] literature is one allowed to glimpse what is actually occurring: the real horror of the war and its effect on those who fought it. 16? An aversion to hate and killing. In addition to these more obvious factors of fear, exhaustion, uncertainty, guilt, and horror, the less obvious but absolutely vital factors represented by the average human being s aversion to hate and killing have been added here. These two factors are the most difficult to observe, but the very fact that they are not intuitively obvious makes them in many ways more important. These interpersonal aggression processes are the riddle that lies deep in the heart of darkness that is war. For the purposes of a study of maneuver warfare, let us gain perspective by looking first at the impact of physiological arousal and fear on the battlefield, and then contrast this with the impact of being confronted with manifest, close-range, interpersonal hatred on the battlefield. The rest of this study will then focus on the dilemma associated with killing circumstances in combat i.e., the average human being s powerful resistance to killing and those processes and circumstances that can be manipulated to enable aggression in combat. The Role of Physiological Arousal and Fear: Sarge, I ve Pissed Too And then a shell lands behind us, and another over to the side, and by this time we re scurrying and the Sarge and I and another guy wind up behind a wall. The sergeant said it was an.88 and then he said, Shit and shit some more. I asked him if he was hit and he sort of smiled and said no, he had just pissed his pants. He always pissed them, he said, just when things started and then he was okay. He wasn t making any apologies either, and then I realized something wasn t quite right with me, either. There was something warm down there and it seemed to be running down my leg. I felt, and it wasn t blood. It was piss. I told the Sarge, I said, Sarge, I ve pissed too, or something like that and he grinned and said, Welcome to the war. A veteran s account of World War II, As recorded by Barry Broadfoot Six War Years, To comprehend fully the intensity of the body s physiological response to the stress of combat, we must understand the mobilization of resources caused by the body s sympathetic nervous system, and then we must understand the impact of the body s parasympathetic backlash, which occurs as a result of the demands placed upon it. Sympathetic and parasympathetic processes: Cooks and clerks in the front line The sympathetic nervous system mobilizes and directs the body s energy resources for action. It is the physiological equivalent of the frontline soldiers who actually do the fighting in a military unit.

5 Grossman/5 The parasympathetic system is responsible for the body s digestive and recuperative processes. It is the physiological equivalent of the cooks, mechanics, and clerks that sustain a military unit over an extended period of time. Usually these two systems sustain a general balance between their demands upon the body s resources, but during extremely stressful circumstances the fight or flight response kicks in and the sympathetic nervous system mobilizes all available energy for survival. This is the physiological equivalent of throwing the cooks, bakers, mechanics, and clerks into the battle. In combat this very often results in nonessential activities such as digestion, bladder control, and sphincter control being completely shut down. This process is so intense that soldiers very often suffer stress diarrhea, and it is not at all uncommon for them to urinate and defecate in their pants as the body literally blows its ballast in an attempt to provide all the energy resources required to ensure its survival. It doesn t take a rocket scientist to guess that a soldier must pay a heavy physiological price for an enervating process this intense. The price that the body pays is an equally powerful backlash when the neglected demands of the parasympathetic system become ascendant. This parasympathetic backlash occurs as soon as the danger and the excitement are over, and it takes the form of an incredibly powerful weariness and sleepiness on the part of the soldier. The criticality of the reserve He, general or mere captain, who employs every one in the storming of a position can be sure of seeing it retaken by an organized counterattack of four men and a corporal. Ardant du Picq 18 Napoleon stated that the moment of greatest danger was the instant immediately after victory, and in saying so he demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the way in which soldiers become physiologically and psychologically incapacitated by the parasympathetic backlash that occurs as soon as the momentum of the attack has halted and the soldier briefly believes himself to be safe. During this period of vulnerability, a counterattack by fresh troops can have an effect completely out of proportion to the number of troops attacking. It is basically for this reason that the maintenance of an unblown reserve has historically been essential in combat, with battles often revolving around which side can hold out and deploy their reserves last. The reserve has always played a vital role in combat, but du Picq was one of the earliest advocates not only of holding out a reserve as long as possible for independent action when the enemy has used his own, but he also insisted on the revolutionary concept that this process ought to be applied downward to the lowest levels. He also perceived the technological process of increasing lethality on the battlefield which continues today. There is more need than ever to-day, for protecting the reserves. The power of destruction increases, the morale [of human beings] stays the same. Clausewitz further understood and put great emphasis on the danger of reserve forces becoming prematurely enervated and exhausted when he cautioned that the reserves should always be maintained out of sight of the battle. These same basic psycho-physiological principles explain why successful military leaders have historically maintained the momentum of a successful attack. Pursuing and maintaining contact with a defeated enemy is vital in order to completely destroy the enemy (the vast majority of the killing in historical battles occurred during the pursuit, when the enemy

6 Grossman/6 turned his back), but it is also valuable to maintain contact with the enemy as long as possible in order to delay that inevitable pause in the battle which will result in the culmination point. The culmination point is usually caused as much by logistical processes as anything else, but once the momentum of the pursuit stops (for whatever reasons) there are severe physiological and psychological costs to be paid, and the commander must realize that his forces will begin to immediately slip into a powerful parasympathetic backlash and become vulnerable to any enemy counterattack. An unblown reserve force ready to complete the pursuit is a vital aspect of maneuver warfare and can be of great value in ensuring that this most destructive phase of the battle is effectively executed. Fear and loathing in the bomb shelter In continuous combat the soldier roller-coasters through a seemingly endless series of these surges of adrenaline and their subsequent backlashes, and the body s natural, useful, and appropriate response to danger ultimately becomes extremely counterproductive. Unable to flee, and unable to overcome the danger through a brief burst of fighting, posturing, or submission, the bodies of modern soldiers quickly exhaust their capacity to rejuvenate and slide into a state of profound physical and emotional exhaustion of such a magnitude and dimension that it appears to be almost impossible to communicate it to those who have not experienced it. As Gabriel puts it, A soldier in this state will inevitably collapse from nervous exhaustion the body simply will burn out. 19 Most observes of combat lump the impact of this physiological arousal process under the general heading of fear, but fear is really a cognitive or emotional aspect of nonspecific physiological arousal. The impact of fear and its attendant physiological arousal is significant, but the part it plays in creating psychiatric casualties needs to be placed in perspective. The role of fear on the battlefield would be held by many researchers to be more appropriately termed the reign of fear, since their sole explanation for combat psychiatric casualties is fear of death and injury in combat. But is fear (and its attendant physiological arousal) the only or even the most important factor in the causation of combat psychiatric casualties? Although fear of death and injury is undoubtedly a significant factor, I submit that it is not the only and possibly not even the most significant factor. This becomes most evident if we examine the results of strategic bombing in World War II. Consider the carnage and destruction caused by the months of continuous Blitz in England or years of Allied bombing in Germany during World War II. Day and night, in an intentionally unpredictable pattern, for months and even years on end, relatives and friends were mutilated and killed all around these people, and these civilian populations suffered fear and horror of a magnitude few humans will ever experience. This unpredictable, uncontrollable reign of fear is exactly what most experts hold responsible for the tremendous percentages of psychiatric casualties suffered by soldiers in battle. And yet, incredibly, the incidence of psychiatric casualties among these individuals was very similar to that of peacetime. The Rand Corporation Strategic Bombing Study published in 1949 found that there was only a very slight increase in the psychological disorders in these populations as compared to peacetime rates, and that these occurred primarily among individuals already predisposed to psychiatric illness. Psychologically, these bombings appear to have served primarily to create a loathing for the enemy: to harden the hearts and increase the willingness to fight among those who endured them.

7 Grossman/7 The impact of fear and physiological arousal in combat should never be underestimated, but it would appear that something more than just fear is required to defeat the enemy s will. Close examination indicates that we can identify several other factors that add to the psychological burden of the soldier in combat. For the purposes of maneuver warfare, one of the most important of these in the role of interpersonal hatred manifested in the enemy s close-range, aggressive actions on the battlefield. The Role of Hate My first reaction, rooted in the illusion that anyone trying to kill me must have a personal motive, was: Why does he want to kill me? What did I ever do to him? Phillip Caputo Author and Vietnam veteran 20 Through roller coasters, action and horror movies, drugs, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, parachuting, hunting, contact sports, and a hundred other methods, our society pursues danger. Danger in and of itself is seldom a cause of trauma in our everyday peacetime existence, but facing aggression and hatred in our fellow citizens is a horrifying experience of an entirely different magnitude. The ultimate fear and horror in most modern lives is to be raped or beaten, to be physically degraded in front of our loved ones, to have the sanctity of our homes invaded by aggressive and hateful intruders. Death or debilitation is statistically far more likely to occur by disease or accident than by malicious action, but the statistics do not calm our basically irrational fears. More than anything else in life, intentional, overt human hostility and aggression assaults our self image, our sense of control, our sense of the world as a meaningful and comprehensible placed, and (ultimately) our mental and physical health. The soldier in combat is no different. He resists the powerful obligation and coercion to engage in aggressive and assertive actions on the battlefield, and he dreads facing the irrational interpersonal aggression and hostility embodied in the enemy soldier. Maneuver Warfare Applications of the Role of Hate If we understand the role of hate in the soldier s dilemma then we can use it to obtain a greater understanding of the psychological underpinnings of maneuver warfare. Airpower advocates persist in their support of strategic bombing campaigns (which are rooted in an attrition warfare mentality), even in the face of evidence such as the post-world War II Strategic Bombing Survey, which, in the words of Paul Fussell, ascertained that: German military and industrial production seemed to increase just like civilian determination not to surrender the more bombs were dropped. 21 Historically,. aerial and artillery bombardments are psychologically effective, but only in the front lines when they are combined with the Wind of Hate as manifested in the threat of the physical attack that usually follows such bombardments. This is why there were mass psychiatric casualties resulting from World War II artillery bombardments, but World War II s massed bombing of cities was surprisingly counterproductive in breaking the enemy s will. Such bombardments without an accompanying close-range assault,

8 Grossman/8 or at least the threat of such an assault, are ineffective and may even serve no other purpose than to stiffen the resolve of the enemy! This is why putting friendly troop units in the enemy s rear is infinitely more important and effective than even the most comprehensive bombardments in his rear, or attrition along his front. This argues strongly for a doctrine similar to the World War II German principle of the Kesselschlacht (i.e., a constant striving for decisive action in the enemy rear) as an essential element in obtaining decisive victory. In this doctrine the Aufrollen (i.e., rolling up the flanks after making a penetration) becomes a secondary operation which is conducted solely to support the Schwerpunkt or the main thrust, which is flexibly directed into the enemy s center of gravity by the commander s intent. In the Korean War the U.S. Army experienced the psychological effectiveness of an enemy who directed penetrations and surprise attacks behind our own lines. During the early years of that war, the rate of psychiatric casualties was almost seven times higher than the average rate for World War II. Only after the war settled down, lines stabilized, and the threat of having enemy forces in the rear areas decreased did the average incidence of psychiatric casualties go down to slightly less than that of World War II. 22 Later, when U.N. forces were able to penetrate and threaten the enemy s rear area during the Inchon landing, these same processes began to work in their favor. Even in the ideal bombing grounds of the barren deserts of the 1991 Gulf War, where for over a month the full weight of American, British, French, Canadian, and Italian airpower was brought to bear on the conscript soldiers of a Third World despot, enemy units did not and would not surrender in large numbers until faced with maneuver units on the ground and in their rear. (In fact, recent evidence indicates that these bombings were significantly ineffective. Initial reports were of more than 100,000 Iraqi casualties inflicted in the war, the vast majority from air strikes. But recent, authoritative reports indicate that as few as 8,000 Iraqi soldiers may have been killed in the Kuwait Theater of operations during the 43 days of combat. 23 If all of these casualties were inflicted from the air, that would be less than eight deaths resulting from each sortie of a multi-million-dollar aircraft loaded with the latest multi-million-dollar smart munitions.) The simple, demonstrable fact is that the potential for close-up, interpersonal hatred and aggression is more effective and has greater impact on the will of the soldier than the presence of impersonal death and destruction. THE EXISTENCE OF THE RESISTANCE Studies by Medical Corps psychiatrists of the combat fatigue cases in the European Theater... found that fear of killing, rather than fear of being killed, was the most common cause of battle failure in the individual. S.L.A. Marshall 24 Having established a foundation for an understanding of the dilemma that faces the soldier in combat, we must next look at the nature of the individual combatant s responses to his environment (Figure 1). In the animal world, when two creatures of the same species come in conflict, their combat is almost never to the death. Rattlesnakes use their poisonous fangs on other creatures, but they wrestle each other; piranha fish bite anything that moves, but fight each other with flicks of their tails; and animals with antlers and horns attempt to puncture and gore

9 Grossman/9 other species with these natural weapons, but meet their own species in relatively harmless headto-head clashes. Against one s own species the options of choice in nature are to posture before and during mock battle, to submit by making oneself harmless or exposing oneself to a killing blow, or to take flight from the aggressor. The fight option is almost never used, thus ensuring the survival of the species. It is widely held that only man has no such resistance to killing. But does he? World War II Gen. S.L.A. Marshall, veteran and the Official Historian of the European Theater during World War II, first brought to the attention of the world the fact that only 15 to 20 percent of the riflemen in combat would fire their weapons at an exposed enemy. 25 Marshall was the first person in history to conduct systematic interviews with individual soldiers immediately after combat, and, although his methodological procedures have recently been reexamined, his basic concept of a majority of soldiers failing to actively pursue the fight option withstands close scrutiny. Figure 1: The soldier s response options upon being confronted with interpersonal aggression. Posturing Man does not enter battle to fight, but for victory. He does everything that he can to avoid the first and obtain the second. Ardant du Picq 26 The anthropologist Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt tells us that One threatens [postures] by making oneself bigger whether by raising one s hackles, wearing combs in one s hair or putting on a bearskin. 27 Such plumage saw its height in modern history during the Napoleonic era, when soldiers wore high, uncomfortable shako hats that served no purpose other

10 Grossman/10 than to make the wearer look and feel like a taller, more dangerous creature. In the same manner, the roars of two posturing beasts are exhibited by men in battle. For centuries the war cries of soldiers have made their opponents blood run cold. Whether it be the battle cry of a Greek phalanx, the Hurrah! of the Russian infantry, the wail of Scottish bagpipes, or the rebel yell of our own Civil War, soldiers have always instinctively sought to daunt the enemy through nonviolent means prior to physical conflict, while encouraging one another and impressing themselves with their own ferocity, and simultaneously providing a very effective means of drowning the disagreeable yell of the enemy. With the advent of gunpowder, the soldier has been provided with one of the finest possible means of posturing. Paddy Griffith points out that soldiers in battle have a desperate urge to fire their weapons: Time and again we read of regiments blazing away uncontrollably, once started, and continuing until all ammunition was gone or all enthusiasm spent. Firing was such a positive act, and gave the men such a physical release for their emotions, that instincts easily took over from training and from the exhortations of officers. 28 Ardant du Picq became one of the first to document the common tendency of soldiers to fire harmlessly into the air simply for the sake of firing. Du Picq made one of the first thorough investigations into the nature of combat with a questionnaire distributed to French officers in the 1860s. One officer s response to du Picq stated quite frankly that a good many soldiers fired into the air at long distances, while another observed that a certain number of our soldiers fired almost in the air, without aiming, seeming to want to stun themselves, to become drunk on rifle fire during this gripping crisis. 29 Submission and Flight It is to be noted that when a body [of troops] actually awaits the attack of another up to bayonet distance (something extraordinarily rare), and the attacking troop does not falter, the first does not defend itself. Ardant du Picq 31 A quest for further understanding of this process brings us to an examination of those individuals in combat 80 to 85 percent of the individual riflemen, according to S.L.A. Marshall s research who would not kill or even posture in combat. Griffith states that: Even in the noted slaughter pens at Bloody Lane, Marye s Heights, Kennesaw, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor an attacking unit could not only come very close to the defending line, but it could also stay there for hours and indeed for days at a time. Civil war musketry did not therefore possess the power to kill large numbers of men, even in very dense formations, at long range. At short range it could and did kill large numbers, but not very quickly (emphasis added). 32

11 Grossman/11 Griffith estimates that the average musket fire from a Napoleonic or Civil War regiment firing at an exposed enemy regiment at an average range of 30 yards would usually result in hitting only one or two men per minute! Such firefights dragged on until exhaustion set in or nightfall put an end to hostilities. Casualties mounted because the contest went on so long, not because the fire was particularly deadly. This does not represent a failure on the part of the weaponry. John Keegan and Richard Holmes in their book, Soldiers, tell of a Prussian experiment in the late 1700 s, in which a battalion of infantry fired [smoothbore muskets] at a target one hundred feet long by six feet high, representing an enemy unit, resulted in 25 percent hits at 225 yards, 40 percent hits at 150 yards, and 60 percent hits at 75 yards. This represented the potential killing power of such a unit. The reality is demonstrated in their account of the battle of Belgrade in 1717, during which two Imperial battalions held their fire until their Turkish opponents were only thirty paces away, but hit only thirty-two Turks when they fired and were promptly overwhelmed. Sometimes the fire was completely harmless, as in Benjamin McIntryre s observation of a totally bloodless nighttime firefight at Vicksburg in 1863: It seems strange however that a company of men can fire volley after volley at a like number of men at not over a distance of fifteen steps and not cause a single casualty. Yet such was [sic] the facts in this instance. 33 (Cannon fire, like machine-gun fire in WWII, is an entirely different matter, sometimes accounting for over 50 percent of the casualties of the black powder battlefield, and artillery fire has consistently accounted for the majority of combat casualties in this century. There is reason to believe that this is as much due to the enhanced psychological effectiveness of these systems due to group accountability processes at work in a cannon, machine gun, or other crew-served weapons firing as it is to their increased mechanical killing potential, i.e., their contribution to what artillery officers like to call the metal density of the air. This critical point will be addressed in detail later.) Recent historical reenactments also verify this trend. A 1986 study by the British Defense Operational Analysis Establishment s field studies division used historical studies of more than th - and 20 th -century battles, and test trials using pulsed laser weapons to determine the killing effectiveness of these historical units. The analysis was designed (among other things) to determine if Marshall s non-firer figures were correct in other, earlier wars. A comparison of historical combat performances with the performance of their test subjects (who were not actually killing anyone with their weapons and were not in any physical danger from the enemy ) determined that the killing potential in these circumstances was much greater than the actual historical casualty rates. The researchers conclusions openly supported S.L.A. Marshall s World War II findings, pointing to unwillingness to take part [in combat] as the main factor which kept the actual historical killing rates significantly below the laser-trial levels. In addition to the obvious options of firing over the enemy s head (posturing), or simply dropping out of the advance (a type of flight), and the widely accepted option of loading weapons and otherwise supporting those who were willing to fire (a compromise between the demands of submission and fighting), evidence exists that during blackpowder battles, thousands of soldiers elected to passively submit to both the enemy and their leaders through fake or mock firing. The best indicator of this tendency toward mock firing can be found in the salvage of multiply loaded weapons after Civil War battles. According to Lord, after the battle of

12 Grossman/12 Gettysburg, 27,574 muskets were recovered from the battlefield; of these, 24,000 were loaded. Twelve thousand of these loaded muskets were found to be loaded more than once, and 6,000 of the multiply loaded weapons had from three to ten rounds loaded in the barrel. One weapon had been loaded 23 times. 34 The practical necessity for muzzleloaders to be loaded from a kneeling or standing position, combined with the shoulder-to-shoulder massed firing line of this era, presents a situation in which unlike that studied by Marshall it was very difficult for a man to disguise the fact that he was not shooting, and what du Picq called the mutual surveillance of authorities and peers must have created an intense pressure to fire in this type of battle. Many leaders took advantage of the endless training hours their soldiers had spent in firing drill by having the men fire by the numbers in a volley fire in which every man fired and loaded together. There was not any of what Marshall termed the isolation and dispersion of the modern battlefield to hide nonparticipants during volley fire. Their every action was obvious to those comrades who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them. If a man truly was not able or willing to fire, even to fire over the enemy s heads as we have seen is so common, the only way he could disguise his lack of participation was to load his weapon (tear cartridge, pour powder, set bullet, ram it home, prime, cock), bring it to his shoulder, and then not actually fire, possibly even mimicking the recoil of his weapon when everyone else fired. Here was the epitome of the industrious soldier. Carefully and steadily loading his weapon in the midst of the turmoil, screams, and smoke of battle, no action of his could be criticized by his superiors and comrades. But secretly, quietly, at the moment of decision, just like the 85 percent observed by Marshall, he finds that he is unable to pull the trigger and kill his fellow man. The Battle of Cold Harbor deserves a close look here, since its instance of thousands of casualties occurring in mere minutes is the example most casual observers of the American Civil War would hold up to refute the assertions made by Griffin. Bruce Catton, in his definitive, multivolume account of the Civil War, debunks the very common misconception that 7,000 casualties occurred in Eight Minutes at Cold Harbor. It is quite correct that most of the isolated, disjointed Union charges launched at Cold Harbor were halted in the first ten to twenty minutes, but once the attackers momentum was broken, the attacking Union soldiers did not flee, and the killing did not end. Catton notes that: the most amazing thing of all in this fantastic battle is the fact that all along the front the beaten [Union soldiers] did not pull back to the rear. They stayed where they were, anywhere from 40 to 200 yards from the confederate line, gouging out such shallow trenches as they could, and kept on firing... all day long the terrible sound of battle continued. Only an experienced soldier could tell by the sound alone, that the pitch of the combat in mid-afternoon was any lower than it had been in the murky dawn when the charges were being repulsed. 35 Actually, it took up to eight hours, not eight minutes, to inflict those horrendous casualties on U.S. Grant s Union soldiers. And, as in most wars from the time of Napoleon to today, it was not the infantry but the artillery (in this case firing grapeshot at close range) that inflicted most of these casualties.

13 Grossman/13 Maneuver Warfare Applications of the Soldier s Options If we can clear away the fog of the battlefield and grasp the concept that the average soldier in combat has a strong predisposition toward the options of posturing, submission, and flight, and a powerful resistance toward engaging in killing activity, then we have gained vital knowledge about the nature of the individual on the battlefield. And, more so on the battlefield than anywhere else in life, knowledge is power. Developing superior posturing [T]here is in every one an animation, a natural ardor that is instilled by the onset of combat. Generals ought not to check but to encourage this ardor. It was for this reason that, in older times, troops charged with loud shouts, all trumpets sounding in order to frighten the enemy and encourage themselves. Ardant du Picq 36 If we accept that the ultimate objective of combat should be to break the enemy s will, then it can be more specifically stated that, within the framework of the Soldier s Options model, the objective is to foster submission or flight responses in the enemy. In conflicts in the animal kingdom, this is usually accomplished through superior displays of posturing. Noisemaking is probably one of the most important aspects of posturing. Griffith quotes an account of yelling in its finest form in the thick woods of the American Civil War s Wilderness Battle: the yellers could not be seen, and a company could make itself sound like a regiment if it shouted loud enough. Men spoke later of various units on both sides being yelled out of their positions. 37 In these instances of units being yelled out of positions, we see posturing in its most successful form, resulting in the opponent s selection of the flight option without even attempting the fight option. And, of course, this is the biological objective in posturing during intraspecies conflicts: it prevents the males of a species from killing themselves off during ritualistic confrontations. As soldiers we posture primarily through firepower, and the value of artillery as a means of psychological domination should not be underestimated by the maneuverist. Firepower can have a psychological effect that is far greater than the physical attrition it inflicts upon the enemy, but such firepower-based posturing must be accompanied by a physical manifestation of close-range, human aggression in order for it to cause the enemy to submit or flee. If we consider firepower to have a significant psychological or posturing value, then we may need to carefully consider such factors as the decibels put out by our artillery rounds and our close-support weapon systems (i.e., is it a good idea to replace 7.62mm, M60 machine guns a truly daunting noisemaker with the 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon in the light infantry platoon?), the realism of the volume put out by blank adapters (could it be that part of the initial resistance to the M16 vs. the M14 was the wimpy way it sounds when fired with its distinctive blank adapter?), and the nuances of using a new generation of electronic hearing protection on the battlefield. That is, is it feasible to build an ear plug-type device that would make it possible to hear friendly commands while shutting out most of the sounds of the enemy s

14 Grossman/14 fire, and still have the soldier feel that his fire is a daunting presence on the battlefield? An important element in such a decision may be the degree to which the concussion of a weapon s firing signature can be felt by the firers; anyone who has fired an M60 or has been next to one when it is firing will understand what I mean by feeling a weapon fire. Fostering flight and submission Xenophon says... Be it agreeable or terrible, the less something is foreseen, the more does it cause pleasure or dismay. This is nowhere better illustrated than in war where every surprise strikes terror even to those who are much stronger A man surprised, needs an instant to collect his thoughts and defend himself; during this instant he is killed if he does not run away. Ardant du Picq 38 Superior posturing, however, is not always the most effective means of daunting an opponent in the animal world. Indeed, too much investment in face-to-face, ceremonial posturing confrontations can simply result in a stylized, set-piece approach to warfare. A more applicable approach to conflict in nature would observe the circumstances in which a small assailant can catch a larger, more powerful opponent by surprise and thereby cause it to submit or flee by virtue of the unexpected ferocity of its attack. Human beings generally need to be emotionally prepared in order to engage in aggressive behavior. The combat soldier, in particular needs to be psyched up for a confrontation. An attack launched at a time and place when the soldier thought he was safe takes advantage of the stress of uncertainty, destroys his sense of being in control of his environment, and greatly increases the probability that he will opt for flight (i.e., a rout) or submission (i.e., mass surrender). A highly mobile, fluid enemy who can launch surprise attacks in what the enemy believes is his rear area is particularly daunting and confusing, and the presence of such interpersonal hostility can be disproportionately destructive to the will to fight. Viewed in another way, attacking at an unexpected and unprepared location results in the defender s inability to orient himself. The defender s observation-orientation-decision-action cycle, or his OODA Loop, has thus been stalled, and he cannot respond. Having been caught off balance, the defender panics and attempts to gain time by fleeing, or simply submits by surrendering in confusion to his assailant. Psychological research in the area of information processing and human decision making has established a broad base of understanding of normal psychological responses to an information overload environment. As too much information comes in, the typical reaction is to fall back initially on heuristic, or rule of thumb, responses. These heuristic responses involve processes such as: anchoring on early information to the exclusion of later, possibly conflicting, or more accurate data; making decisions based on their availability or the ease with which a particular response comes to mind (e.g., repeating a recently executed maneuver); or falling into a conformational bias in which only information that confirms or supports the current working hypothesis is processed and contrary information is filtered out of consciousness. If these heuristic responses fail (as they are quite likely to), then the normal human response is to become trapped into a cascading effect in which he reacts with increasingly inappropriate actions and either fails completely (i.e., is destroyed by the enemy) or

15 Grossman/15 completely stops trying and falls into a paralyzed state sometimes referred to by psychologists as learned helplessness but always referred to by soldiers as surrender. A classical example of this kind of maneuver warfare operation can be observed in Nathan Bedford Forrest s campaign against William Tecumseh Sherman s forces during Sherman s march to the sea in the America Civil War. Forrest, with only a few thousand cavalry, forced Sherman to leave more than 80,000 men to guard his supply centers and is 340-mile-longsupply line. On several occasions Forrest fell on unprepared units three times his size and inflicted disproportionate casualties upon his hapless enemies. His primary weapon was surprise. The rear-echelon units he was attacking were not humanly capable of maintaining a fighting pitch at all times, while Forrest s troops entered battle having already attained morale superiority since they had plenty of time to prepare themselves emotionally prior to launching their surprise attacks. 39 Enabling killing The final, and perhaps most obvious, application of our understanding of the average soldier s aversion to close-range killing is to manipulate the soldier s training and the variables of his combat environment in such a way as to psychologically enable him to kill the enemy. This killing enabling process is essential to the understanding of what is happening to the soldier on the battlefield, and is therefore the next area to be examined as we look at how to defeat the enemy s will. THE PROCESS OF ENABLING KILLING I shot him with a.45 and I felt remorse and shame. I can remember whispering foolishly, I m sorry and then just throwing up... I threw up all over myself. It was a betrayal of what I d been taught since a child. William Manchester, novelist and World War II veteran Describing his response to killing a Japanese soldier 40 The magnitude of the trauma associated with killing became particularly apparent to me in an interview with one old soldier. He was the commander of a VFW Post where I was conducting some interviews, and had served as a sergeant in the 101 st Airborne Division at Bastogne in World War II. He talked freely about his experiences and about comrades who had been killed, but when I asked him about his own kills he stated that usually you couldn t be sure who it was that did the killing. Then tears welled up in his eyes and after a long pause he said, But the one time I was sure... His sentence was stopped by a little sob, and pain wracked the face of this noble and respected old gentleman. It still hurts, after all these years? I asked in wonder. Yes, he said, after all these years. And he would not speak of it again. The next day he told me, You know, Captain, the questions you re asking, you must be very careful not to hurt anyone with these questions. Not me you know, I can take it, but some of these young guys are still hurting very badly. These guys don t need to be hurt any more. And I was profoundly struck by the certainty that I was picking at the scabs of terrible, hidden wounds in the minds of these kind and gentle men. Killing in close combat is, unquestionably, a profoundly traumatic experience. Years of research in this field have convinced me that there is a powerful resistance in most individuals to

16 Grossman/16 killing their fellow human beings. I have become equally convinced that there is a set of circumstances and pressures that can cause most human beings to overcome this resistance. Having established the nature of the soldier s dilemma, and having established the presence of the soldier s natural, preferred responses to aggression, the next and most important step is to understand the circumstances and pressures that can be brought to bear on the individual soldier to enable him to overcome this reluctance to killing. The objective of this study is to attempt to understand the psychological underpinnings of maneuver warfare, and I submit that these factors are the basic, underlying psychological forces which are effectively manipulated in maneuver warfare to: (1) empower the will of one s own forces and (2) undermine or attack the enemy s will to fight. The Milgram Factors: The Killer s Relationship to Group, Authority, and Victim I observed a mature and initially poised businessman enter the laboratory smiling and confident. Within 20 minutes he was reduced to a twitching, stuttering wreck, who was rapidly approaching a point of nervous collapse... At one point he pushed his fist into his forehead and muttered: Oh God, let s stop it. And yet he continued to respond to every word of the experimenter and obeyed to the end. Stanley Milgram 41 In the 1960s, Dr. Stanley Milgram s famous studies of obedience and aggressive behavior under laboratory conditions at Yale University found that, in a controlled, laboratory environment, over 65 percent of his subjects could be readily manipulated into inflicting a lethal electrical charge on a total stranger. The subjects sincerely believed that they were causing great physical pain to a total stranger whom they had just met. Despite their victim s pitiful pleas for them to stop, 65 percent continued to obey orders and increase the voltage and inflict the shocks until long after the screams stopped and there could be little doubt that their victim was dead. 42 This research by Milgram (which has since been replicated many times in half a dozen different countries) combines with that of other psychologists to identify the three major interactions incorporated in Figure 2 as (1) the Distance from the Victim, (2) the Demands of Authority, and (3) Group Absolution. Analysis indicates that each of these variables can be further operationalized into subcategories as indicated in Figure 2.

17 Grossman/17 Figure 2: Killing enabling factors Physical distance To fight from a distance is instinctive in man. From the first day he has worked to this end, and he continues to do so. Ardant du Picq 43 The physical distance between the actual aggressor and the victim was created in Milgram s studies by placing a barrier between the subject and the individual he was shocking. This same process can ge generalized to and observed in historical combat circumstances, as portrayed in Figure 3. John Keegan in The Face of Battle notes that only a fraction of one percent of all wounds at the Battle of the Somme in World War I were inflicted with edged weapons and most of those in the back. 44 Interviews and research reveal countless incidents in which combatants confronted with an enemy soldier at close range did not fire, but when faced with an enemy who could be attacked with a hand grenade, or who could be engaged at medium range or long range, the incidence of nonfiring behavior goes down significantly. At the greatest range, among high-altitude bombers or artillery crews, incidents of refusal to fire are extraordinarily rare. Units with a history and tradition of close-combat, hand-to-hand killing inspire special dread and fear in an enemy by capitalizing upon this natural aversion to the hate manifested in this determination to engage in close-range interpersonal aggression. The British Gurkha

18 Grossman/18 battalions have been historically effective at this (as can be seen in the Argentineans dread of them during the Falklands War), but any unit that puts a measure of faith in the bayonet has grasped a little of the natural dread with which an enemy responds to the possibility of facing an opponent determined to come within skewering range. What these units (or at least their leaders) must understand is that actual skewering almost never happens; but the powerful human revulsion to the threat of such activity, when confronted with superior posturing represented by a willingness or at least a reputation for participation in close-range killing, has a devastating effect upon the enemy s morale. This powerful revulsion to being killed with cold steel could be observed when mutinous Indian soldiers captured during the Sepoy Mutiny begged for the bullet, pleading to be executed with a rifle shot rather than the bayonet. The combination of closeness with uncertainty (especially at night) helps explain why flank and rear attacks shatter the enemy s will to fight. The assumption that the enemy is very close raises the level of uncertainty. This closeness and uncertainty combine and conspire with the darkness lack of mutual surveillance in such a manner as to erode and destroy the enemy s will to fight. Figure 3: Relationship between distance from target and resistance to killing Emotional distance: blindfolds and bayonets in the back Combat at close quarters does not exist. At close quarters occurs the ancient carnage when one force strikes the other in the back. Ardant du Picq 45

19 Grossman/19 One of the more interesting processes to occur in the area of emotional distance is the psychological leverage gained by not having to see the victim s face. Israeli research has determined that hooded hostages and blindfolded kidnapping victims have a significantly greater chance of being killed by their captors. 46 This demonstrates the difficulty associated with killing an individual whose face you can see, even when that individual represents a significant threat by being able to later identify you in court. This same enabling process explains why Nazi, communist, and gangland executions are traditionally conducted with a bullet in the back of the head, and individuals being executed by hanging or firing squad are traditionally blindfolded or hooded. Not having to look at the face of the victim provides a form of psychological distance which enables the execution party and assists in their subsequent denial and/or rationalization and acceptance of having killed a fellow human being. In combat the enabling value of psychological distance can be observed in the fact that casualty rates increase significantly after the enemy forces have turned their backs and begin to flee. Clausewitz and du Picq both expound at length on the fact that the vast majority of casualties in historical battles were inflicted upon the losing side during the pursuit that followed the victory. In this vein du Picq holds out the example of Alexander the great, whose forces, during all his years of warfare, lost fewer than 700 men to the sword. 47 They suffered so few casualties simply because they never lost a battle and therefore had to endure only the very minor casualties inflicted by reluctant combatants in close combat and never had to suffer the very significant losses associated with being pursued by a victorious enemy. The killing during the pursuit has also traditionally been conducted by cavalry, chariot, or tank units, and these have their own form of psychological distance, which enables their killing activity. In combat a good horseman becomes one with his mount and is transformed into a remarkable new species. He is no longer a man, but is instead a ten-foot tall, half-ton, fourlegged, centaur-like pseudospecies that has no hesitation to slay the lesser creatures that scurry about beneath him especially if these lesser beings are being pursued and have their backs turned. The category of emotional distance also addresses such processes as:? Cultural distance, such as racial and ethnic differences, which permits the killer to dehumanize the victim.? Moral distance, which takes into consideration the kind of intense belief in moral superiority and vengeful/vigilante actions associated with many civil wars.? Social distance, which considers the impact of a lifetime of practice in thinking of a particular class as less than human in a socially stratified environment.? Mechanical distance, which includes the sterile Nintendo Game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sigh, or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim. The demands of authority The mass needs, and we give it, leaders who have the firmness and decision of command proceeding from habit and an entire faith in their unquestionable right to command as established by tradition, law and society. Ardant du Picq 48

20 Grossman/20 In Milgram s study the demands of authority were represented by an individual with a clipboard and a white lab coat. This authority figure stood immediately behind the individual inflicting shocks and directed that he increase the voltage each time the victim answered a series of (fake) questions incorrectly. When the authority figure was not personally present but called over a phone, the number of subjects who were willing to inflict the maximum shock dropped sharply. This process can be generalized to combat circumstances and operationalized into the following sub-factors:? Proximity of the authority figure to the subject. Marshall noted many specific World War II incidents in which almost all soldiers would fire their weapons while their leaders observed and encouraged them in a combat situation; when the leaders left, however, the firing rate immediately dropped to 15 to 20 percent.? Killer s subjective respect for authority figure. To be truly effective, soldiers must bond to their leader just as they must bond to their group. Compared to an established and respected leader, an unknown or discredited leader has much less chance of gaining compliance from soldiers in combat.? Intensity of the authority figure s demands for killing behavior. The leader s mere presence is not always sufficient to ensure killing activity. The leader must also communicate a clear expectancy of killing behavior.? Legitimacy of the authority figure s authority and demands. Leaders with legitimate, societally sanctioned authority have greater influence on their soldiers; and legitimate, lawful demands are more likely to be obeyed than illegal or unanticipated demands. Gang leaders and mercenary commanders have to work carefully around their shortcomings in this area, but military officers (with their trappings of power and the legitimate authority of their nation behind them) have tremendous potential to cause their soldiers to overcome individual resistance and reluctance in combat. Groups: accountability and anonymity Whenever one surveys the forces of the battlefield, it is to see that fear is general among men, but to observe further that men commonly are loath that their fear will be expressed in specific acts which their comrades will recognize as cowardice. The majority are unwilling to take extraordinary risks and do not aspire to a hero s role, but they are equally unwilling that they should be considered the least worthy among those present. I imagine that those versed in the sciences would see in these statements simple proof that the ego is the most important of the motor forces driving the soldier, and that if it were not for the ego, it would be impossible to make men face the risks of battle. From that point, one could go on to say that social pressure, more than military training, is the base of battle discipline, and that when social pressure is lifted, battle discipline disintegrates. But I would prefer the simple statement that personal honor is the thing valued more than life itself by the majority of men. S.L.A. Marshall 49

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